Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Into the Abyss

When the Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Majority Leader Bill Frist is expected to bring the confirmation of disputed judicial nominee Priscilla Owen to the floor, firing the first live round in the battle over the nuclear option. Debate on the Owen nomination is slated to continue through the first days of next week, at which point Frist will attempt to invoke cloture (i.e. end debate).

If that motion, which requires 60 votes, fails [and barring a last-minute compromise, it will], then Frist will raise a point of order that the continued filibuster of judicial nominees is contrary to Senate rules. Vice President Cheney, in his role as presiding officer of the Senate, would then agree with Frist's point of order. An opponent will object, at which point a vote would be taken on "whether to sustain the ruling of the chair." This is the showdown roll call. If 50 senators agree to sustain Cheney's ruling, he can cast the tiebreaking vote, thereby declaring the filibuster of judicial nominees against Senate rules and thus "out of order."

Hopes dimmed on Tuesday that a compromise could avert the looming confrontation. While Arkansas' Mark Pryor, a Democrat was saying "I think we’re very close, but we're not quite there yet," Republican John McCain appeared after a meeting with Frist and said that he had not yet been able to obtain strong enough commitment from Democrats that they would not filibuster future nominees to gain approval for a compromise from the Republican leadership. Of course, as they say, hope springs eternal: Nebraska's Ben Nelson told Reuters Tuesday evening "I'm very close on the Democrats. I've just talked to Senator McCain. He's still working on it, and we continue to be optimistic," and the same report quotes McCain as saying "I'm doing everything I can, and several like-minded people are doing the same thing. I don't know if we will reach an agreement or not." All I can say to Nelson and McCain right now is, keep at it. You're all we've got.

For an excellent overview of 'where things stand,' I recommend this article, to appear in Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor.

[Update: This Ron Fournier piece for the AP, on how politics has "gone extreme," is also quite a good read. Scary, but a good read. -- 9:09 p.m.]

[Update: National Journal reports that among the Democrats involved with the Benator's proposed compromise are Pryor of Arkansas (as I've mentioned), as well as Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ken Salazar of Colorado. The two others remain unnamed thus far. NJ also reports that on the Republican side, McCain's efforts to find a compromise have been joined by Nebraska's Chuck Hagel. -- 9:34 p.m.]

[Update: Here are Wednesday's major articles on the showdown: this from Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray in the Washington Post, and this from Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David Kirkpatrick in the New York Times. Both express pretty much the same things as I've mentioned above, with a few more choice quotes from potential compromisers McCain ("I don't know, I don't know, I don't know") Warner, and Specter. -- 11:07 p.m.]


At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The price of greatness is responsibility. Sir Winston Churchill

To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day. Sir Winston Churchill

It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time. Sir Winston Churchill

It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. Sir Winston Churchill

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. Sir Winston Churchill


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